Posts Tagged Newport

book review: Newport

newport

 

<em>Newport</em> By Jill Morrow. William Morrow Trade Paperback| July 7, 2015|356 pages |$14.00| ISBN: 9780062375858

rating: 3.5/5*

Newport hooked me from page one as a page-turner in which to immerse oneself during a weekend or holiday. There’s the beautiful sepia cover with a blonde young woman with ringlet waves in deep thought in front of phonograph which drew me in. I wanted much more of what I saw on the cover. Newport and the 1920s. Two subjects with sophistication, flair and romantic nostalgia.

Dashing and successful Boston attorney Adrian de la Noye travels to Newport with his young associate/protégé Jim Reid to revise a client’s will. Bennett Chapman plans to marry the much-younger and stunning Catharine Walsh and his children aren’t thrilled over the marriage or their father’s plans to include her in his will. It’s been twenty years since Adrian last visited Newport and his story along with that of the secretive Catharine Walsh and her daughter Amy unfolds. Utilizing séances where Amy serves as a medium for Chapman’s departed wife’s messages to him, her children and others in the room. She declares that Catharine Walsh and Bennett Chapman must marry. She also exposes secrets about everyone. Is it a scam perpetrated by the grifter mother-daughter team or is Mrs. Chapman truly speaking from beyond? Morrow traverses from present day to twenty years earlier and includes several [fairly predictable] twists.

“For as long as Jim had known Adrian de la Noye—and that was practically all of Jim’s twenty-five years—the man had never seemed ruffled or out of place. Such ease was to be expected in the sanctified halls of Andover and Harvard, which Jim had attended on Adrian’s dime. Adrian had been born to fit into places like that, and he called both institutions his alma mater.”

Author Jill Morrow unfortunately does not sufficiently establish setting or time. It could have been nearly any time and any place in the past. If the book wasn’t called Newport I wouldn’t be able to guess where we were. First it was off-season and besides the main seaside mansion that the characters visit and a walk two characters take along the beach, Morrow didn’t really describe what I’ve come to understand about the Newport historical days with the Four Hundred—a group of old money families—holding elaborate and exclusive parties. It unfolds that the Chapman family is new money and therefore not well-regarded by the Newport set. Adrian de la Noye summered on Cape Cod although he partied with his friends in Newport often. This is a character-driven novel where mysterious, broken characters propel the story-lines. Once the reader starts she wants to know exactly what happened and what will happen. For genuine 1920s allure one is better off reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise or Erika Robuck’s Fallen Beauty or countless other novels set in the Jazz Age.

Visit Newport around the holidays to see the mansions decked out gorgeously in holiday decorations.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from William Morrow.

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book review: Emily Hudson

Title: Emily Hudson
Author: Melissa Jones
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (September 2, 2010)
Category: historical fiction
Rating: A

The perils of being a free-spirited, intellectually curious woman during the Civil War are at the heart of this historical fiction novel, based on an event in the life of Henry James. After being expelled from boarding school for her improperly close friendship with a schoolmate, Augusta, and being accused of not fitting in, Emily Hudson finds herself at the mercy of her mother’s brother in Newport. Emily lost her entire family to consumption and her uncle feels overly burdened by having her in his care. He’d like her married off as soon as possible but Emily has other ideas. She wants to travel. She wants to be an artist. She plays piano and sketches and paints when she can. While her other cousins are off at war, William, who’s rather weak and sickly, remains behind in Newport. Soon Emily and William spend their days talking about literature and travel and have become the closest allies. When a relationship falls through for Emily, William decides to take her abroad under his guardianship. Emily had longed to visit England and be part of European society and away from her puritanical uncle but she soon finds that William is as controlling. If Emily is every going to be free and truly content, she must make her own plans.

I wish you would not describe me and pinpoint me so continually. Besides, in my belief, a person is always essentially themselves. That cannot be changed or altered.

Author Melissa Jones has created a rousing feminist character in Emily. She’s outspoken and likely to shun conventionality. Emily’s a bit ahead of her time. Women are supposed to be married off by a certain age and then be relegated to the kitchen and drawing room, only to come out for parties and entertaining. And to be an artist at this time? It’s rather unusual and Emily certainly meets those who doubt her talents and capability to make it out there on her own, including her dear cousin William. Throughout her elegant prose, Jones makes it quite clear that William suffers an awful jealousy of his cousin’s fiery persona and independent nature. He tries to control her through an allowance but Emily refuses to be constricted by proper society and her cousin’s simplistic wishes for her.

Above all she was tired of fighting and struggling, struggling with her own nature—her own being.

Outstanding research and scintillating physical descriptions makes Emily Hudson a truly stand-out work of historical fiction. Through memorable settings and eloquent details, Jones turns 18th century Boston and British society into beguiling additional characters. Emily Hudson is a charming story about one woman’s search for her true self and everlasting happiness without sacrificing her ideals.

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